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4 Dec, 2023 14:20

Former US ambassador accused of being Cuban spy – AP

Diplomat Manuel Rocha has been accused of failing to register as an agent of a foreign government
Former US ambassador accused of being Cuban spy – AP

A former US diplomat who previously served as Washington’s ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested on suspicion of secretly working on behalf of the Cuban government, the Associated Press has reported.

Manuel Rocha, 73, was detained in Miami on Friday, the AP reported on Sunday, as part of a long-running FBI counterintelligence operation. Further information on the charges against Rocha is expected to become known at a public court appearance on Monday, the news agency said, citing information provided by two anonymous sources with knowledge of the case.

The report added that the Justice Department’s charges against Rocha state that he worked to promote the interests of the Cuban government. Federal law requires anyone working on behalf of a foreign power from within the US government infrastructure to register with the Justice Department under the terms of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

The Justice Department, which has in recent years attempted to crack down on illegal foreign lobbying in Washington, declined to comment when contacted by the AP. Neither Rocha nor anyone representing him has so far commented on the charges against him.

The US has for decades had strained diplomatic relations with Cuba and maintains a commercial, economic, and financial embargo on Havana that makes it illegal for US corporations to do business with the country.

Peter Strzok, former deputy assistant director of the FBI counterintelligence division, said in a post to social media following news of the arrest, “From Rocha to the Cuban 5 to Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers to Ana Montes, to a remarkable run of success in running double agents, the Cuban Intelligence services are very, very good.”

The Colombian-born and Ivy League-educated Rocha is a more than two-decade veteran of the United States’ foreign services, with much of his work having been focused on Latin America. In 1997, he was appointed Washington’s top diplomat in Argentina before a 2000 appointment as US ambassador to Bolivia.

He later drew scorn from locals in 2002 when he intervened in Bolivia’s presidential race, warning that the US may cut off aid to the economically underdeveloped country if former coca grower Evo Morales was elected.

Rocha’s comments, which Bolivians saw as an attempt to enshrine US interests in the region further, largely backfired and bolstered support for Morales. Rocha’s successor was expelled three years later after Morales gained power, accusing the US envoy of seeking to incite a “civil war.”